Douglas J Moo. Galatians: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013. 496 pp. $44.99.
Dr. Douglas Moo, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, offers a stabilizing, weighty offering to the Church with his excellent commentary on Galatians.
Galatians is a book first and foremost about the gospel, so it only makes sense that the occasion for this letter becomes the central unifying theme of Moo’s commentary. As Moo comments, he divides the letter’s body into three sections: The Truth of the Gospel, 1:11-2:21; The Defense of the Gospel, 3:1-5:12; and The Life of the Gospel, 5:13-6:10.
In developing his argument, Moo navigates between matters of salvation history, the new perspective on Paul, and aspects of justification. For instance, he concludes that the issue of dispute is not discontinuity in salvation history — for there is great continuity here as he argues with the example of Abraham (3:1-4:7) — but a contrast between two ways of accessing God’s grace, one being “works of the law” and the other being “faith” (178). So salvation history is of importance but the matter of justification by faith takes precedence (155). This may seem like an aberrant comment, but it is important to grip what Moo emphasizes as central to the Galatian letter.
Though one would benefit from having a working knowledge of Koine Greek, the BECNT commentaries offer transliteration and expositional clarity so that such knowledge is not essential.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
One of the challenges I have found in consulting commentaries is when an issue of validation goes non-validated. In other words, the commentator provides an excellent landscape of possible positions but never presents a concluding conviction. Not that this would persuade, but it’s helpful to know the commentator’s view.
An objective of the BECNT is not to leave pastors helplessly wondering, “So which view is it?” Dr. Moo faithfully delivers throughout this contribution on Galatians. This doesn’t mean he gives the definitive answer on every issue. For instance, he seems non-committal on whether forensic or participatory justification is the center of Paul’s theology (155), though elsewhere he calls participation “the theological bedrock” resulting in both justification and membership in God’s people (58).
Still, Moo provides a balanced, well-reasoned, and articulate argument for each exegetical move. Whether it’s his slight favoring of a South Galatian destination (8) or the AD 48 date (18), he does not arrive at these conclusions carelessly.
Likewise, he does not make the weight of this study burdensome on the reader. Many commentaries bog readers down with footnotes filled with democratically driven validation – whatever position gets the most votes wins – not so here. He arrives at his conclusion not according to the vote of those who agree on a viewpoint but based upon the veracity of the tenable position. Thus, Moo judiciously selected nine commentaries to regularly consult and compare (xii). This does not mean he only consulted nine commentaries. In truth, he cites over thirty pages of sources through the course of this study (407-438). But these commentaries provide the best representation of various views on matters such as destination, origin, structure of the letter, or the serious matter of justification by faith.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Moo’s commentary on Galatians is a ballast for pastors wishing to faithfully exegete the message of this letter. You will not be disappointed in this commentary. You’ll find yourself consulting Moo’s commentary on Galatians endlessly as you preach through Paul’s earliest and seminal letter.